Tarping a trailer is such an important part in shipping cargo safely from one point to the next. If you're traveling longer distances to deliver the goods, then you might run into different issues like inclement weather, road debris, or other damage that can happen while driving.
Flatbed trailer tarps work great at preventing any damage to cargo during transit. It mitigates any exposure that could possibly ruin the cargo before it's delivered, and it gives you piece of mind having an added layer of protection on your items.
Putting tarp on your flatbed trailer sounds like a chore. But with the right strategy and products to use, this chore ends up being super easy to do. We provide you with a five-step guide on putting tarp on your flatbed trailer and keeping your cargo secure from the elements.
How to Tarp a Flatbed Trailer
1. Choosing the Right Tarp
Rule #1 for semi truck tarps: there is no "one size fits all" approach.
First, you need to choose the right trailer tarp for your rig. There are many options available to choose from, and each one is designed for a specific size or style of trailer. Before looking, make sure to know the dimensions of your flatbed trailer and what kind of cargo you'll likely be transporting. This gives you an idea of what kind of tarp you will need.
All tarps from U.S. Cargo Control are made with a PVC-coated polyester material that is durable and resistant to tearing. They also prevent damage from water, mildew and UV rays. We offer a variety of tarps specially designed for different trailer sizes and purposes:
Types of Tarps
Flatbed Lumber Tarps are large tarps that are normally used to haul lumber and lumber storage. However, these flatbed tarps work great for all-purpose cargo items. These products also come with end flaps for use on semi trailers.
Steel Flatbed Tarps work for low-profile cargo and used for covering steel cables, rods, and similar products. These tarps do not come with an end flap unlike the Flatbed Lumber Tarps.
Machinery Tarps cover large and irregular equipment like machinery. They also work at covering other items too that a lumber or steel tarp would do.
Smoke Tarps, or nose tarps, are slightly smaller than lumber and steel tarps. They cover the front part of the cargo load and protect it from exhaust coming from the semi truck, as well as any dirt and road debris.
Roll Tarps, or Dump Truck Tarps, fit nicely around carts, wagons and dump trailers. They contain payloads that help to create a safer environment for tying down and transporting items.
Coil Tarps, or coil bags, slip over and fit nicely on top of round metal cargo such as aluminum coils. This prevents any excess material from being tied down before hauling.
3-Piece Tarps offer an alternative to heavier tarps by splitting up the product into three manageable pieces for your flatbed trailer. They consist of two Lumber Tarps and one Steel Tarp that serves as the middle piece of the set. This makes handling the lightweight tarps much easier than with the other options.
2. Secure the Cargo on the Trailer
With the right-sized trailer tarp, the next step is to secure your cargo on the flatbed trailer. This is generally done with a crane lift or other lifting vehicle or mechanism. If you're interested in having lifting equipment of your own, check out our lifting and rigging supplies for high-quality products.
Depending on the amount of cargo you need to tarp down, make sure to evenly distribute these items on the trailer. You should know how much your cargo weighs beforehand, as well as how many tie down straps you need to properly secure your items. If you don't do this step, you risk the danger of transporting loose cargo that can potentially hurt others as well as yourself.
3. Apply Extra Blankets and Corner Protectors
For added security, use moving blankets and corner protectors on your cargo as another safety measure. Moving blankets provide a thick protective covering over cargo items and prevent further scuffs, dents, and abrasions. Depending on the loads and the tie downs used, corner protectors can also protect your cargo when tying down. If you used these products, then make sure that they are all in place before laying down the tarp.
We offer a complete guide on moving blankets to help choose which blankets are right for your needs. Our comparison video on our corner protector products also shows which ones work for your type of cargo:
4. Lay the Trailer Tarp Down
Roll out your trailer tarp over the cargo. Start by making sure the tarp itself is centered over everything you need covered. While unrolling the tarp, you want to keep this center as best as you can. If you need, try placing an object on the center of the tarp to keep it in place as you continue to roll it out.
Once laid out, pull the semi trailer tarp over the cargo and make sure that it's touching the actual flatbed trailer. Unfold the tarp on each side and lay it out. If you have excess tarp, fold that inwards and adjust it as necessary before starting the tarp tie down process.
5. Tie Down Tarp with Tarp Straps
The final step after laying out the tarp(s) is to tie them down with tarp straps and additional tie down straps, if needed. We offer a variety of straps that work to keep your tarp secure:
Types of Tarp Straps:
Rubber Tarp Straps work for many different tie down uses, but are most used to secure tarps on trailers, as well as trucks, campers, and other vehicles. Both our Natural Rubber Tarp Straps and EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) Rubber Tarp Straps work ideally for cooler and hotter climates, respectively.
Bungee Cords are another great versatile tool that has many uses, but works great at tying down semi tarps. These products come in different lengths, and you can choose between either bungee cords or ball bungees (comes in bundles of 100).
Shock Cord also work to tie down flatbed tarps. Considered to be "bungee cords without end hooks," shock cord features a consistent and durable stretch and a durable marine-grade jacket that prolongs its working life. You can also create custom black bungee cords by adding bungee hooks.
Rubber Rope is another option to create custom tie down straps at the specific lengths you need. We offer 150-foot rolls of both 3/8" diameter rubber rope and 7/6" rubber rope. Cut to the necessary lengths and fit each of your custom tarp straps with rubber rope hooks.
Additional Tarp Products
Make sure that you have enough tarp straps on hand. Too little tie downs can strain the straps and potentially cause your flatbed tarp to billow while driving. Tie them down to existing anchor points on the trailer. You can also use D-Rings to attach to your trailer via bolt-on or weld-on application.
Use extra tie down straps if you believe your tarp will billow during transit. Additional tie downs will further secure your tarp as well as the cargo. Be sure not to overtighten the extra tie down strap to prevent damaging your cargo.
Other tarp accessories work to create custom tarp straps, further tie down the tarp to your cargo load, or to make repairs to tarps that have ripped or frayed. Browse through our accessories and see which products can help you with your tarp tie down.
More Articles You May Enjoy:
5 Pieces of Flatbed Trailer Equipment Every Driver Should Have
How to Inspect, Clean, and Store Tie Down Straps
Tarp Straps: Natural Rubber vs. EPDM
Winter Truck Maintenance: 10 Tips to Prepare Your Truck for Winter